Years ago I heard about cognitive therapy and bought a book entitled Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. (Her father, Aaron Beck, M.D., developed the cognitive model.) At the time, the book presented two problems for me. The first was that it's geared toward therapists, and perhaps I felt it was too judgmental toward patients. The second was that the very definition of this type of therapy bothered me.
"In a nutshell, the cognitive model proposes that distorted or dysfunctional thinking (which influences the patient's mood and behavior) is common to all psychological disturbances. Realistic evaluation and modification of thinking produce an improvement in mood and behavior. Enduring improvement results from modification of the patient's underlying dysfunctional beliefs."
The reason this bothered me was because I was so tired of reading that everyone who's bipolar or depressed is dysfunctional and has low-esteem that I could have screamed. It felt like everywhere I looked, the doctors writing books were blaming us for our illness. (Before my diagnosis and subsequent medication merry-go-round, my self-esteem was just fine.)
If I could have gotten beyond the original definition of cognitive therapy, I might have understood that the key to cognitive therapy is that "people's emotions and behaviors are influenced by their perception of events. It is not a situation in and of itself that determines what people feel but rather the way they construe a situation."
And I agree with that. Thus, the same situation that may cause me to feel angry may not affect you at all and vice versa.
What I now believe is that this type of therapy might have been helpful. Recently, I've realized that my behavior and perceptions have changed as a result of this illness. After all these years of seeking help and finding most of the therapists and psychiatrists (I've seen) to be clueless about this illness, I can now see that with certain people in certain situations, I have become angry and unforgiving--which I never was before.
While I still dislike the word, dysfunctional, I could agree that my emotional response to situations and people isn't what it used to be. My "core beliefs," which used to be life-affirming and positive, have changed. (more to come)
If you have experience with cognitive therapy, please let us know how you feel about it.